Only a few days to go: We’re raising £25,000 to keep TheyWorkForYou running and make sure people across the UK can hold their elected representatives to account.

Donate to our crowdfunder

Cbi and TUC

Oral Answers to Questions — National Finance – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 14th October 1976.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Mr James Callaghan Mr James Callaghan The Prime Minister, Leader of the Labour Party, Member, Labour Party National Executive Committee

I refer my hon. Friends to the reply which I gave to the hon. Member for Conway (Mr. Roberts) on 12th October.

Photo of Mr John Ovenden Mr John Ovenden , Gravesend

When my right hon. Friend meets the TUC, what reassurance will he give that the Government will continue to meet their side of the social contract? Is he aware that the faith of ordinary working people in the contract is taking a bit of a bashing in the face of rising food prices, high unemployment, and now a high level of mortgage interest rates? Will he re-examine the Government's policy on food subsidies and see whether he can do something to show that we are playing our part in keeping prices down?

Photo of Mr James Callaghan Mr James Callaghan The Prime Minister, Leader of the Labour Party, Member, Labour Party National Executive Committee

Yes, Sir, we shall consider any of these matters. There is no doubt that the consequences of the common agricultural policy are at present helping to keep food prices down, but that is an adventitious factor that will not persist for ever. What is needed is a long-term reform of the CAP, and that is what we intend to pursue.

Photo of Mr Winston Churchill Mr Winston Churchill , Stretford

Does the right hon. Gentleman recall last year's invitation by the TUC to the former KGB boss, Mr. Alexander Shelepin? Will he say whether he shares the enthusiasm of the National Executive Committee of his own party for the forthcoming visit as an official guest of the Labour Party of Mr. Boris Pomonaryov, who is charged with supervising the furtherance of the interests of Soviet imperialism in countries outside the Eastern bloc, or will the right hon. Gentleman choose this moment to dissociate himself and the British Government from that invitation?

Photo of Mr James Callaghan Mr James Callaghan The Prime Minister, Leader of the Labour Party, Member, Labour Party National Executive Committee

I do not think that will come up at my meeting with the TUC and CBI. The hon. Member for Stretford (Mr. Churchill) in his professional capacity has considerable experience of interviewing a number of gentlemen in other countries who are not entirely devoted to the democratic cause. I think that in pursuit of that professional exercise the hon. Gentleman has managed to preserve his purity undefiled. I promise him that my friends on the National Executive Committee are as tough as he is in that regard.

I am not sure whether the hon. Gentleman has met Mr. Pomonaryov. If not, no doubt the hon. Gentleman will soon be seeking an interview with him. I shall be ready to see Mr. Pomonaryov personally. I would welcome discussion with him on some aspects of Soviet policy, including detente and other matters concerning the agreement signed in Helsinki. It is foolish to suggest that we should cut ourselves off from that kind of exchange when we know what view we take.

Photo of Geoffrey Robinson Geoffrey Robinson , Coventry North West

When my right hon. Friend next meets the CBI, will he discuss the desirability, and indeed the possibility, of reinstating enlarged advanced project schemes with a view to reinvigorating industrial investment, which unfortunately is now flagging?

Photo of Mr James Callaghan Mr James Callaghan The Prime Minister, Leader of the Labour Party, Member, Labour Party National Executive Committee

I shall. I have already had discussions with the CBI about advancing investment. Some of the schemes introduced by the Government are tailor made for this purpose and, as I have pointed out in the House before, some industries have already taken advantage of them and we have secured very considerable investment. I shall continue to draw this to the attention of the CBI and ask it to continue to use the schemes to their full effect.

Photo of Mr Robert McCrindle Mr Robert McCrindle , Brentwood and Ongar

When he next speaks to the TUC, will the Prime Minister discuss the Government's proposal to require that 50 per cent. of the representation on occupational pension schemes should come from trade unions? Will he communicate to the TUC that members of these schemes take a very strong view against this proposal? Is he aware that, although they are not against participation—indeed, they are quite in favour of it—they see no reason why there should be a 50 per cent. representation from trade unions?

Photo of Mr James Callaghan Mr James Callaghan The Prime Minister, Leader of the Labour Party, Member, Labour Party National Executive Committee

I take note of the hon. Gentleman's view, but I am not able to depart from the policy already put forward.

Photo of Mr Greville Janner Mr Greville Janner , Leicester West

If my right hon. Friend sees Pomonaryov, will he express to him the deep concern of Members on both sides of the House about the treatment by the Soviet authorities of their minority groups in general and the Jewish minority in particular? As Pomonaryov will be leading a group of academicians from the Soviet Academy of Sciences, will my right hon. Friend protest in particular at the treatment of Academician Levich, who has a place at University College, Oxford, and who has been harassed and persecuted for so long?

Photo of Mr James Callaghan Mr James Callaghan The Prime Minister, Leader of the Labour Party, Member, Labour Party National Executive Committee

I am sure that I shall be able to raise with Mr. Pomonaryov some of the consequences flowing from the Helsinki Agreement. I suggest to the House that if these discussions are held against a background of demonstrations and protests, we are unlikely to get a rational discussion going. I would much prefer to have the opportunity of quiet talks with these members of the Praesidium than to have a series of demonstrations taking place so that we spend all our time talking about the demonstrations and very little time discussing the real issues at stake.

Photo of Mr Enoch Powell Mr Enoch Powell , South Down

Reverting to an earlier supplementary question on the cost of food, would it not be of great assistance and satisfaction to the TUC and the public generally if this country were able to buy food at advantageous prices in world markets?

Photo of Mr James Callaghan Mr James Callaghan The Prime Minister, Leader of the Labour Party, Member, Labour Party National Executive Committee

Yes, I think it would. It was always one of the weaknesses of our entry into the Community that the CAP does not suit our requirements. That is why we must pursue in the Community with some, though not all, other member countries a policy of getting substantial reforms over a period. I believe that we shall be able to do that.